UFC Tampa: 6 Questions Answered

UFC on Fox 19 has come and gone, and despite being hit by injuries and failed drug tests, delivered an entertaining and relevant lineup of fights. Here is some of the fallout:

1. Glover Texeira is still among the best of the worst weight class in the UFC

Light-heavyweight has gone from the marquee division of yore to arguably the weakest division in the company, outside of the top four. Rashad Evans and Glover Texeira, both 36 years of age, squared off to determine who was still relevant in the top ten. It was Glover who put his stamp on the fight, crowding the former champion and finding the range with a pair of hooks that sent Evans crumpling to the canvas. Rashad showed signs of the division passing him by in the Bader bout, but Glover putting his lights out confirmed it. Afterwards, we saw a very emotional and honest Rashad grappling with the question of retirement. Texeira, meanwhile, is on a three-fight win streak, and a top contender fight with thunder-fisted Anthony Johnson beckons.

2. Rose Namajunas really has gotten better

In what was likely a top contender bout for the women’s strawweight division, Namajunas edged out undefeated Tecia Torres in a rematch and showed how far she has come in the past three years. It was a close, back-and-forth scrap, which likely determines “Thug” Rose as the next title contender, especially if Joanna Jedrzejczyk beats Gadelha in their rematch in July. Dana White has suggested perhaps she should continue to develop, so perhaps they will match her up with Michelle Waterson in the meantime. Tecia Torres doesn’t take too much of a step back with a narrow loss, and will continue to be a force in the top ten.

3. Nurmy is back

Khabib Nurmagomedov has returned. The question was, would he still look the same after repeated knee injuries and a rib tear? The answer was yes, as the bear-wrestling Dagestani shook off the early cobwebs to dominate the brave Darell Horcher with his unparalleled MMA grappling. Since the UFC went ahead and booked Eddie Alvarez against Rafael Dos Anjos in July, Khabib will probably fight his original opponent, Tony Ferguson, in a top contender bout. The good news is that he didn’t have to take that dangerous fight off a two-year injury layoff, and will hopefully fight El Cucuy at his best. Nurmagomedov is heralded as the uncrowned champion of the division, since he dominated the current champion in his last fight before the injuries. It felt good to see him return. As for Darrell Horcher, he took his beating like a (regional) champ, and will get another fight in the big show to prove he belongs.

4. Cub Swanson is also back

Would Cub Swanson still have gas left in the tank for a comeback? The fist-slinging Swanson took a year off after losing two in a row, but he returned with a fun fight here. His low-volume, wild striking may not get him to a title, but he remains an all-action top ten fighter, dropping Hacran Dias in rounds two and three with a hook and a head kick, respectively. His weaving transitions from kicks to punches and back again remain among the most unique in mma, as evidenced by his two knockdowns. The first came off a low calf kick into a left hook that Dias never saw coming. His second was when he recovered from being completely off balance to throw a head kick out of nowhere. The only fighter above Swanson in the rankings that really makes sense is a rematch with Ricardo Lamas; barring that, he could have very fun fights later this year with the returning Korean Zombie or perhaps BJ Penn. As for Dias, he remains a gatekeeper to the top ten, and would represent a tough test for perhaps someone like Mirsad Bektic.

5. Michael Chiesa is an unlikely top ten lightweight

How far can the Seattle native go? His striking and movement on the outside remain incredibly awkward, but his dynamic clinch wrestling leads directly to his Kekkai Genkai, the rear naked choke, and he has now caught two of the lightweight division’s best grapplers in a row with it. His callout of Tony Ferguson was excellent and something more fighters need to be doing. But if Ferguson ends up fighting Khabib, there aren’t that many guys available above him in the rankings. He will likely continue taking fights with guys around his level or just below until a top contender bout opens up. As for Beneil Dariush, he was picking Chiesa apart at range, especially with his thunderous leg kicks. There are plenty of top fifteen lightweights to book him against. Perhaps he will face the loser of Barboza-Pettis next weekend.

6. Speed does indeed kill

The lightning-fast flyweight was locked out of the title picture once Mighty Mouse shut him down twice, but would his trek to bantamweight pay dividends? John Dodson was given a softball in his return to bantamweight, and he knocked it out of the park. Manny Gamburyan never got a chance to get into this fight, as Dodson lunged in with a rear straight and followed it up with a frantic flurry of shots that put the veteran down. His ridiculous athleticism lets him get his whole body behind some of his punches, which is where their power comes from. I would like to see him matched up against someone who will push a pace, since Dodson does have the tendency to sit back and wait for his openings. John Lineker would be fantastic, or the winner of Almeida-Garbrandt, or maybe even a rematch with TJ Dillashaw. 135, once a stagnant division, now has a growing list of rising contenders lining up for a shot at Dominick Cruz’s belt.

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